Its roots might be modest, but Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra music director Scott Terrell says Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 is no small accomplishment.
“Here’s a guy who takes four notes and makes a 45-minute symphony,” Terrell says. “It always feels like it’s evolving somewhere fresh.
“As I was really studying the last couple of weeks, it’s amazing what he does in orchestration, in changing up the anticipation of what the ear would expect — changing up phrasing, dynamics, orchestra colorings. There’s so much in this, it’s really astounding at times.”
The next audience to hear Beethoven’s Fifth — think “Da! Da! Da! Dah!,” if you don’t know it by name — will be the one that turns out for the Philharmonic’s season finale, Friday night at the Singletary Center for the Arts. To Terrell, it’s a fitting way to end the season and take a measure of how the orchestra has progressed in his seven seasons as music director.
“As we have expanded the orchestra’s repertoire — particularly in the field of sort of certainly contemporary composers, certainly 20th-century composers — when you come back to a piece that’s revered, it suddenly has a greater impact,” Terrell says. “Instead of another Beethoven five, check the box, ... it’s kind of fun now in the context of all the other stuff we’ve done that it suddenly has a special place.”
Terrell says the orchestra has not played the Fifth in more than a decade. “Sometimes you’ve got to have the distance so it feels like it’s fresh.”
This will be the first time Terrell has conducted the Fifth in its entirety, although he has conducted portions of it many, many times in pops concerts and education programs.
And that is often how listeners hear it: in pieces, particularly that opening phrase. The Simpsons had a little fun with that in an episode in which a new concert hall opened in Springfield. An orchestra was set to play Beethoven’s Fifth, and after the first few notes, the audience got up and left, saying that’s all they wanted to hear.
Terrell thinks listeners will be rewarded by further listening.
“You’re enamored by the structure and the enormity of thought, and the fact that he makes the unexpected feel so compelling, so regular now,” Terrell says of Beethovan. “Now it doesn’t shock me, but it still is shocking when you pull it back and see why it has that longstanding place as a piece that really confounds the listener.
“There’s a degree of reverence when you take this piece on.”
And you have to choose carefully what accompanies it. For Friday’s concert, Terrell chose John Adams’ Lollapalooza, which continues the Philharmonic’s practice of introducing new works in the Terrell era, and it complements the Fifth as similarly deceptively simple, albeit with a greater sense of whimsy. The program also includes the first organ concerto of Terrell’s tenure, which is special to him, as he is an organist.
“It’s a real show-stopper,” Terrell says of Félix-Alexandre Guilmant’s Organ Symphony No.1, to be performed by organ soloist Paul Jacobs. “As an organist, I’ll have to watch what I am doing and not get too enamored with how easily he plays the piece.”
Clearly, the maestro has put together a finale with a lot to love.
If you go
What: The orchestra, conducted by Scott Terrell, presents Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, John Adam’s Lollapalooza and Félix-Alexandre Guilmant’s Organ Symphony No.1 with organ soloist Paul Jacobs.
When: 7:30 p.m. May 13
Where: Singletary Center for the Arts concert hall, 405 Rose St.